If the water where they live is salty and all animals need this precious liquid to survive, one might wonder, how do sea snakes drink water?
You will be surprised when we tell you the mechanisms that nature has found to hydrate this species of reptiles. Keep reading and you know it.
Sea snakes, as their name implies, live in the seas and oceans. They spend most of their lives in this habitat, some never even leave there.
The areas of greatest presence are the coasts of South Africa and the entire sea that stretches between the Pacific and the coasts of Central America.
What are the characteristics of sea snakes?
This aquatic reptile usually reaches almost a meter in length and has a powerful tail that allows it to move through the water as if it were an oar.
As we will see, this is very important when it comes to going for your sources of hydration.
Like all animals, sea snakes need to take in air to breathe, so they rise to the surface in their search.
However, they hardly make contact with the ground and, truth be told, they are not very skilled in such a situation.
Another characteristic of sea snakes is that they can live for a long time, even months, without drinking water.
Also, your body absorbs large amounts of this fluid but loses very little to saltwater.
And as if that weren’t enough, they have glands that allow them to excrete the salt from the brackish water they ingest in the seas.
The snake has its drinking water system. It has the skin which folds and it functions as a tiny sponge tube and it draws the water in the mouth using the capillary actions. And then, it squeezes the water down in its gut.
Does a snake drink water with its tongue?
Snakes do not lap water using their tongues. It depresses its jaws and creates negative pressure to draw in the water and then seals its mouths on the side to create positive pressures and push the water into the rest of its bodies.
Did you know that snakes drink – Thanks to their spongeous mouth?
Snakes’ diet is carnivorous, so their diet consists of mammals, birds, insects, fish, amphibians, and even specimens of the same species.
Lacking proper dental structures, snakes must completely engulf their prey (they can consume animals that exceed their size).
During digestion, a snake will remain completely immobile to replenish the energy expended. Also, given the long digestion process, these animals can go months without feeding.
Have you ever wondered how a snake drinks? The answer may seem obvious, but in reality, it is not.
Snakes don’t have lips like us and their fine forked tongues are certainly not designed to drink water.
Also, no snake has ever been seen taking water and tilting its head back to swallow it. So, how does a copper drink?
In the 1990s, scientists thought they had found the answer to this question. According to their observations, they were certain that snakes ingested water only through suction.
By contracting certain muscles in your mouth rhythmically, snakes can suck water continuously.
However, later David Cundall of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA, found evidence that some species of snakes do not use suction to drink water.
What has been observed is that some snakes have spongy mouths which allow them to absorb water. This is because your mouth is lined with soft tissues with huge folds.
These fabrics are very good at attracting water, so when a snake opens its mouth and slightly expands its folds it can absorb water through a process called capillary action, such as a sponge.
When the folds are filled with water, the snake moves the muscles of its jaw to compress the folds, releasing the water that is then swallowed.
Although there is still no 100% certainty about how snakes drink, this mechanism is believed to happen not instead of the suction mechanism, but rather in a complementary way.
The most peculiar thing is that only snakes drink in this way, although there are other reptiles with the same type of folds, an indication that they were probably initially developed for another function, that proved to be also useful for this – something that biologists call of exaptation.
Most likely, these folds have developed because snakes have to open their mouths incredibly wide to swallow their prey whole, functioning as extensible skin.
How do snakes hydrate?
Amazingly, evolution has endowed these reptiles with an ability that allows them to survive in a salty environment: they are capable of detecting any pond of freshwater – scientists call them lenses.
That forms on the surface of the oceans whenever it rains torrentially.
Depending on the amount of rain that falls, the wind, the weather conditions, and other external factors, this is how pure and abundant the water in these lenses will be.
In general, they can be almost a meter deep and last many days, long enough for our thirsty snake to reach them from below and get hydrated.
How do sea snakes find glasses?
A very interesting question is how sea snakes manage to find these lenses in the middle of the oceans.
It’s not really that they need to swim miles and miles to find them. Simply, the reptile waits for it to rain and, when it does, it goes up to its freshwater.
Now, studies show that sea snakes can detect atmospheric changes and somehow predict when it will rain or storm, so they can satisfy their need to hydrate without any problem.
As incredible as it may seem, sea snakes take in the freshwater they need in the same way that we do.
Yet another mystery that science has solved, fortunately for those of us who will never lose the capacity for wonder.